Pinpointing lung cancer

Doctors develop new way to more precisely locate the tumor


BOSTON, Mass. – More people in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer.  This is true for both men and women. In the next 12 months, more than 200,000 people will be told they have it. Now, in a breakthrough procedure, doctors have developed a new way to more precisely pinpoint where the tumor is. 

Surgical teams are now performing a new innovative technique that could mean the difference between life and death for Madeleine Florio.

Florio opted for this ground breaking procedure after watching her mother, father, and sister die of lung cancer.

"This is really like GPS. You don't have to waste time looking at the map," explained Raphael Bueno, MD, thoracic surgeon, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

A real-time CAT scan done during the surgery makes this different than a traditional procedure. That accurate image allows Bueno to mark the location of the tumor with a wire. He then makes a small incision and a tiny camera finds the wire and finds the tumor.

Bueno says had he performed the traditional procedure he would have removed more of Florio's lung to make sure all the cancer is removed. With the new procedure, he knows he got it all.

"I knew it would have been a longer recovery," she said.

Bueno says many patients are at risk for reoccurrence. So by preserving more of the lung the first time, it could help them later on in life.

He says this procedure is for patients with small lung nodules. Patients with large cancers will need a bigger operation.

Additional information:

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., and this holds true for both women and men. A tumor is the biggest indication that a person may have cancer. Tumors may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Lung cancer is known to spread throughout the organs of the body and is very hard to control. Lung cancer can spread to the brain, liver, bones, or adrenal glands. (Source: medicinenet.com/lung_cancer/article.htm#lung_cancer_fact)

SYMPTOMS: At times, symptoms do not arise until later stages. Most symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Hoarseness

(Source: mayoclinic.com/health/lung-cancer/DS00038/DSECTION=symptoms)

NEW PROCEDURE: Now, doctors are taking CAT scans during surgery to remove cancerous parts of the lung. This procedure is beneficial because doctors are able to see an accurate image of the tumor so they can pinpoint exactly where to make the incision and remove the tumor. Traditional procedures require a lot of guessing and uncertainty, which often leads to the reoccurrence of the cancer. This new procedure provides patients with better lung function, faster recovery, and quicker delivery of therapy. Similar techniques include:

  • Navigational bronchoscopy uses real-time electromagnetic guidance to improve navigation within the lung parenchyma and offers diagnostic benefits over standard flexible bronchoscopy. This technique is valuable in performing biopsies of peripheral lung lesions and mediastinal lymph nodes for the staging of lung cancer.
  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) enables visualization of the tissue beyond the bronchial wall, including lymph nodes and lesions outside of the bronchial airways. This technique also enables simultaneous diagnosis and lung cancer staging.

(Source: brighamandwomens.org/Medical_Professionals/education/publications/AdvancesCancerTreatment/thoraciconcologyadvances/minimalinvasivethoracic.aspx)